Why Texas is failing to privatize mental health care

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

In 2003, Texas passed a law that sought to turn mental health care in the state into a competitive marketplace. It’s 2010, and that marketplace still hasn’t materialized. The Texas Tribune’s Brian Thevenot tried to find out why. Thevenot describes it as “a textbook case of legislative intent crashing on the rocks of bureaucratic maneuvering and logistical realities.”

The state’s local Mental Health and Mental Retardation authorities are supposed to become “providers of last resort,” who turned most direct medical services over to networks of private providers. Instead, the state has remained among the nation’s worst in terms of mental health funding and, as Thevenot reports, the prison system and not the mental health infrastructure, has served as the real provider of last resort for Texas’ mentally ill.

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